Science, Consciousness & Alchemy

By Theresa Bullard

Photo by Kollektive

Emerging New Paradigms Bring Skeletons Out Of The Closet

Is a new paradigm really entirely new? Or is it possible that new paradigms are based on old, even ancient, ideas re-emerging into present-day thought?

There is no doubt that we are in a time of shifting, and that many aspects of our worldview and societal systems are undergoing rapid change. We are experiencing the tension of these shifts at many levels: personal, local, national, and global. For some this has brought much stress, but for others it is a time of excitement and anticipation. Excitement, because with these shifts we are also experiencing a sea-change in the dominant paradigms that govern our society. The established view is being turned on its head, challenging outworn ways of operating, and catalyzing a transformation of human consciousness.

Emerging new paradigms that challenge and uproot the old, also bring an opportunity to re-evaluate certain unresolved concepts that had been pushed aside in the previous era. These unresolved concepts were relegated to the dustbins of history, not because they were false, but because they caused inconveniences to the effort of solidifying the emerging paradigm. False concepts would have vanished into dust over time. However, those ideas that persist, even when they are shoved into the closet for centuries, likely hold deeper truths. Perhaps they won’t go away because they accept the condition of remaining hidden while patiently waiting for the proper time to re-emerge. Times of creative chaos, when one paradigm breaks down and another surfaces, provide the prime opportunity to bring these ‘skeletons in the closet’ out and reassess their merit.

The past two major paradigm shifts that have heavily influenced our global worldview, were rooted in science. The most recent began nearly one hundred years ago, when the Quantum Revolution upturned the established Newtonian science. The principles of the Newtonian worldview, which form what is now an old paradigm, include reductionism, separatism, determinism, and materialism. These old principles led us away from a sense of the inter-connections of all aspects of life.

In the days of that revolution, the founders of this field openly discussed the role of Consciousness, one of the skeletons in the closet of the previous era’s materialist worldview. The founders of quantum physics, such as Neils Bohr, Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli, Erwin Schrödinger, and others had deep, often heated, discussions on the philosophical implications of the new quantum theory, as well as how the conscious observer affects reality. The Quantum “Observer Effect” implies that we, as conscious beings, become entangled with what we observe, and therefore participate in determining the outcome of the observable world.So radical was this and other implications of the new science that, unfortunately, no final agreement was ever reached on the role of Consciousness. Instead, Newtonian materialists pushed it back into the closet so that the industry of science could get back to ‘business as usual’.

While science has adopted Quantum Physics theory, in terms of physical experiment and developing technologies, the deeper meaning and implications it has for our worldview have remained largely unaddressed (at least outside of “conscious culture” and communities focused on the intersections of Science and Consciousness). The previous era’s Newtonian principles still persist as the dominant paradigm affecting our societal worldview as a whole. Only recently (the past 10-20 years) have we seen a re-emergence of the discussion on the meaning of Quantum Physics and how it affects our experience of the world.

Another principle of science that got pushed into the closet when the Newtonian paradigm took root over three hundred years ago, which also relates to the role of Consciousness in science, was that of the ancient tradition of Alchemy. This one was ironic, given that Isaac Newton himself was an alchemist and he never intended for his theories to divorce Science from Consciousness. Alchemy is defined as the art and science of transformation. Its tradition is ancient, and it still remains intact to this day. The ultimate goal of Alchemy is not to achieve physical “gold” as some mistake, but to achieve union with one’s full potential, to become whole through a specific seven-step process of transformation and transmutation. The end result of the alchemical process is a totally new paradigm, a new way of being. Here again, over the last ten years or so, the principles and themes of Alchemy have come knocking, asking us to bring the skeleton out of the closet and reassess its value.

Like many scientists and rationalists of today, I originally scoffed at the idea of Alchemy. Thinking of it as some obscure practice or charlatan’s attempt to turn ‘lead into gold’. But, when I finally opened up to the idea of further exploring what it really is, I found the art and science of Alchemy to be a deep and practical system of wisdom. Even more, it provides a prime model for integrating science, spirituality, and consciousness. It also bridges Eastern (such as Vedic, Tantric, Taoist, etc) and Western (such as Kabbalistic, Hermetic, and Occult Science) wisdom traditions, as traces of the same alchemical pattern can be found throughout. Many of science’s forefathers and greatest early innovators were alchemists who were brave enough to think outside the mainstream paradigm of their day and push into uncharted territory - Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Bacon, Paracelsus, and DaVinci are a few examples. True Alchemy works with a universal, seven-step pattern for how to transform, evolve, and progress something from a corrupted state to a more whole and balanced state. Briefly, the seven steps of the alchemical change process include:

  1. Challenging old forms and breaking them down into pieces,
  2. Dissolving outworn structures and reflecting on underlying patterns,
  3. Rooting out the impurities, imbalances, or things that don’t work well,
  4. Recombining the more essential parts into a more purified and balanced whole,
  5. Stabilizing and maturing to bring that whole into a greater state of integrity,
  6. Fine-tuning and refining by infusing higher levels of consciousness or life-essence into the new results,
  7. Cycling through the above steps until the final goal and highest potential are reached.

The tradition of Alchemy teaches the secrets of how to consciously harness this process and drive it forward at an accelerated rate. Alchemy therefore trains you to be at cause, rather than at the effect of change. In such times as these, when an old paradigm is giving way to a new, and systems are breaking down all around us, Alchemy can empower us to harness the forces of change in the world and steer their course towards a more optimal outcome.

There are a growing number of people, including scientists, doctors, sages, and lay-people from all walks of life, who are now looking to Quantum Physics, Complex Systems Theory, Epigenetics, and other newer sciences as the new frameworks for reconstructing our paradigms and societal models. Equally critical is to re-evaluate science’s skeletons in the closet, Consciousness and Alchemy, in light of the principles being illuminated through the new sciences. Collectively, they provide us with the ingredients for a powerful new worldview that includes interconnectivity, complementarities, purpose, conscious participation, cooperation, and union. This new paradigm marks the entrance into an era that seeks synergy, instead of discord, and attempts to put the pieces together into a greater whole in preference to breaking things into individual parts. We can thus transition from an age of separation into an age of integration.

Many of us feel that the next revolutionary change will come when we figure out how Consciousness, being at cause, is reunited with the overall scientific theories that describe our experience of the physical world. Rather than limiting, let us encourage science’s progression through open and constructive discourse and sharing of new innovative ideas. Devising a Science of Consciousness, requires a very interdisciplinary approach and will rest upon the new sciences of Quantum Physics, Complexity Theory, and Neuroscience, as well as draw from ancient wisdom traditions on the nature of Consciousness. Those brave scientists who are looking to this new frontier, even while the mainstream science culture and the funding agencies that back research are not forthcoming with support, deserve our respect and honor. They will be the pioneers of a new era of innovation and solutions for the problems we face.

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